Get up close and personal…

June 7, 2016

“It’s hard to hate up close.”  (James Comey, FBI Director)  – re-blogged from the Jack’s Winning Ways blog. Jack went on to write – Do you remember the song from The King and I?…“Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you.  Getting to feel free and easy When I am with you.”  Director Comey believes that police and citizens should have more face to face contact.  Studies show that most of us have a racial bias and use mental shortcuts when meeting “different” people.

Today’s blog title comes from the old ABC Sports coverage on TV, where they would get “Up close and personal” with various athletes that they were covering. It was a way of letting their audience know the life story behind the athlete – to get to know them.

I find Director Comey’s observations on prejudice and hate to be especially true. It is so easy to sit at home watching news events unfold on the evening news and to form criminalprejudicial thoughts about people that you see on the screen, especially people who are “different”. Sometimes when a story about a crime starts on the news I find myself having pre-conceived notions about what the perpetrator will look like if they show a picture later in the story. Many times I am wrong, but my own prejudices have taken over.

Perhaps we all allow something like that to happen in our lives. Maybe we see someone coming towards us and notice a tattoo or a nose ring or lip bead or maybe blue or purple hair; and, without any personal knowledge to go on about tatooed girlthat person, we form an opinion about that person; an opinion that prejudices our feelings about them without a word being spoken. Does something like that ever happen with you? You may pick your own set of visual cues.

Those instances in our lives are probably the times when we should try our hardest to put those prejudices behind us and get up close and personal with the person that we’ve just encountered. Life doesn’t always give us that opportunity; however, each encounter is an opportunity for you learn from and better control your own reactions.

Make it a practice to ask yourself after each unjustified negative reaction why you feel that way. Ask yourself what do you know about this person that would cause you to automatically fear or hate them? If the only thing that you come up with is that they look different and somehow menacing, then you have encountered prejudice within yourself and need to focus some time and prayer on resolving that personal flaw.talking-2

One of the better ways to work on prejudices that you may have is to take the ABC Sports approach and get up close and personal – take the time to really talk with and understand the other person – their background and point of view. Maybe it would help to star by saying to yourself that everyone you meet is someone’s child or parent, someone’s mate or friend, someone’s brother or sister, someone. Until you know who that someone really is, you really don’t know them well enough to form an opinion about them – to hate them or fear them.

Once you do that, you may find that Director Comey is right. It’s hard to hate someone
that you have met up close and personal. You are far more likely to have empathy with their life situation, or perhaps be ready to offer help, than you are to just hate them for different peoplewhat and who they are. In fact you may end up loving what or who they are and the free spirit within them that gives them the freedom to be “different.”

So, today, take the time to get up close and personal with someone that you may have avoided in the past or someone that you may have had a prejudicial reaction to when you first met. Understand them as a person. Listen to their story and see if you still feel the same about them now that you have gotten up close and personal. You may find that the opening quote is true – It’s hard to hate up close.


I can see clearly now…

March 5, 2016

“Don’t judge me unless you have looked through my eyes.”  (Lucy Heartfilia), which I saw on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Today’s quote may be thought of as a variation of the old Native American proverb – Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

I think it has a slightly different bent to it, because it focuses upon how we “see” the world and perhaps how we judge or pre-judge people whose different point of view causes them to react differently to the world around them. The fact is that all of us “see” the distorted viewworld differently because we look at it through the distortions caused by the “lenses” of our experiences and knowledge, our fears and prejudices, or our hope and optimism. Some people look at it through the dark lenses of depression. Others see nothing but rainbows through the rose colored glasses of optimism. Some may see danger lurking behind every bush and tree, while others see opportunities around every corner or behind every door.

The really hard part, which today’s quote alludes to, is for us to understand another person’s point of view – what they see – especially if they are significantly different from you. If you walk into a room filled with people who look like you, you might not
points of viewimmediately see danger in the situation; but walk into a room filled with the same number of people, but one in which they are all very different from you and you might see danger and threats. For most white Americans seeing a policeman approach may cause them to pause to think if they’ve done anything wrong; but, they don’t “see” it necessarily as being threatening. However, ask a resident of Ferguson, Missouri about that scenario and you’ll get a different answer. Perhaps that is because the eyes that they see that policemen through are filled with so many tears from the past.

Maybe it’s not the seeing that is really the problem; but, rather, the labels that we attached to what we see. Those labels are mental associations that we make. Some labels are based upon experiences from our past, but some just conjured up with no basis in facts or personal experiences. Many times those labels are broadly applied stereotypes that are bigot personbased upon prejudices or misinformation. We don’t stop to really “see” the person standing n from of us because we are blinded by the labels that flash up in our minds. Our ability to “see” the good, the beauty and the interesting things about that person are obscured by our proclivity to “see” only the things defined by the labels that we have already associated with them. Our vision has joined in the wider conspiracy that we call bigotry.

It is sometimes hard, but the first step to really seeing others is to clear the mind of all of the preconceptions that you might normally carry with you. You really can’t see clearly with your eyes until you are ready to “see” clearly with your mind. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be ready to take the next step and be able to begin to “see” things through their eyes too. At that point, you may discover that a new set of labels appear before your eyes; labels that are associated with them “seeing” you. That may not be a pretty thing to see either.

There is a song by Johnny Nash that inspired the title to today’s post. Although Nash’s lyrics didn’t call them labels he did call them obstacles that were in his way. Once they eye on worldwere removed he could see clearly and it was a bright, bright, sunshiny day. Maybe if you can clear away the obstacles (labels) in your mind you will see more clearly, too; and you too will have a brighter day. Perhaps you’ll even be able to “see” things from the point of view of others and that will make your day and theirs better, too.

I’ll be seeing you.

Don’t rush to judgement…

August 20, 2015

“We should not judge until we see clearly; and when we see clearly, we will not judge.”  (G.D. Gregg) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Detroit Prosecutor Kim Worthy went to great lengths recently to explain her decision not to prosecute a Federal Immigration Officer after he shot and killed a young black man during an arrest attempt. What she was trying to do was explain clearly the facts that had been gathered in the case and the conclusion that she came to concerning the shooting. Due to the number of recent incidents involving white police officers shooting black men during police actions, there was a considerable rush to judge this latest incident as just another case of the use of excessive force against those of color. People had been judging the case without clearly seeing the facts; so, Worthy made a lengthy and detailed explanation to explain her conclusions ad decision not to charge the Immigration Officer, who happened to be white.

opinionatedThis little saying has widespread applicability in our daily lives. Many of us, and I have to admit to being in this group from time to time, rush to judgments without clearly seeing all of the facts. Snap judgments are often based upon the use of stereotypes or prejudices – some preconceived notions that we have going into a situation. It is very difficult not to have some mental “pre-sets” in life and even more difficult to learn not to use them to render a quick (and most of the time incorrect) judgement of people or situations.

How many times have we all looked at someone who might have been dresses strangely or at least differently and made a snap decision about them? You might decide that they represent a danger to you or that they are to be ignored or avoided, because of how they look. Perhaps you just silently say “tsk, tsk” to yourself and wonder how they could have such poor taste in clothes, at least according to your different lookstandards. Perhaps they appear to be unkempt to you. These are all judgments that you might make before you even speak to them (if you speak to them at all). Have you had experiences where you ended up talking to them and discovering, to your surprise, that they turned out to be very interesting people? Do you remember how quickly your concerns about their appearance faded into the background, once you got to know them? Once you saw them more clearly were you still ready to judge them solely on their appearance?

Situations can also present the opportunity to pre-judge or rush to judgement, before we have all of the facts (or maybe any facts at all) to support those judgments. Confrontational situations almost always cause us to get on one side or the other without understanding all of the facts involved. Situations involving the unknown or possible dangers may provoke reactions or responses made without taking the time to see things clearly. We may avoid participating in an activity that turns out to be fun because of some preconceived notion of the risks or dangers involved.

The key word at work in the opening quote is “judge”. It is very hard to put off making a judgement about people judge thingsand situation until we have the time to collect and analyze the facts that should be driving that decision. We seem to have this need to respond; to answer the internal question, “What should I do?” Sometimes the best answer is to do nothing at the moment. Instead of “think fast” we should just think and try to get a clear picture of the situation or the person. Secondly, one must ask the question about the word judge – “By what or whose standards?” Taking that extra moment to think before you judge may help you see that the judgement you were about to make is based on prejudice or pre-conceived notions and not supported by the facts at hand. At least it may allow you to take the extra step of trying to see the picture more clearly, before you rush to a judgement. Most of the time the answer to the question “what don’t I know?” about this person or situation is more important and more interesting than what you think you know judgement

Ultimately we can get to a state where making judgments is not something that we spend much time and energy
upon. Perhaps if we rushed to learn more about people, rather than rushing to judgments about them we’d have less fears and prejudices and more friends.

Have a great day and put off judging those whom you meet today. Try to make a friend before you form an opinion.